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Trip-and-Fall Claims Require Actual or Constructive Knowledge

Jones v. Imperial Palace – Trip-and-Fall Claims Require Actual or Constructive Knowledge

Suffering a fall in a public place can be more than a minor embarrassment – it can cause very real and very serious injury.

However, that alone is not enough to secure compensation. Proving premises liability in Florida as well as in most other jurisdictions requires proof the property owner or possessor had actual or constructive knowledge of the danger, the danger wasn’t easily knowable for the injured person, and the property owner failed to either mitigate the hazard or warn of it.

Seems complicated, right? With an experienced attorney, many trip-and-fall claims can be successful. But with few exceptions, all the aforementioned elements need to be present.

In the recent case of Jones v. Imperial Palace of Mississippi, LLC, the Mississippi Supreme Court was tasked with weighing whether an appellate court erred in reversing the trial court’s order for a summery judgment in the property owner/defendant’s favor. The high court found there was indeed an error, and the trial court’s ruling was reinstated.

Our Fort Lauderdale trip-and-fall attorneys understand the key point was insufficient evidence proving defendant created or had constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition on site. Constructive knowledge in these cases means if the property owner didn’t actually know of the danger, he or she should have known or learned about it through the exercise of reasonable care.

According to court records, plaintiff was walking through a casino parking garage in the space between a garage wall and the front of the parking spaces. This is an area that is not specifically designated for pedestrians in the garage, but neither are walkers prohibited from this area. Plaintiff was seriously injured when he tripped over a concrete parking bumper and fell hard onto the concrete floor.

In a lawsuit, he would later allege the bumper wasn’t properly aligned so it jutted into his path, directly resulting in both his fall and injury.

Trial court granted the casino a motion for summary judgment, finding plaintiff had produced insufficient knowledge that the casino created the hazard or should have known about it. The Court of Appeals reversed, citing the 1996 Mississippi Supreme Court decision in Drennan v. Kroger. In the instant case, a security guard testified she knew some of the bumpers were misaligned, and informed her supervisors. In Drennan, plaintiff slipped and fell in a puddle inside the store shortly after a rainstorm. The court determined defendant store had constructive knowledge of that particular puddle because management was aware of a leaky roof above that particular puddle, patrons were temporarily protected by the placement of buckets on the floor and that day it had rained hard. The court in Drennan ruled the knowledge of a leaky roof over the exact location of the puddle in question combined with the recent heavy rain put the store on sufficient constructive notice of the likelihood a puddle would be present. It wouldn’t have been enough, the court said, to simply show a “knowledge of a history of puddles.”

In the Jones case, the court found the plaintiff failed to produce evidence the casino knew or had reason to know that particular bumper was misaligned at the time of his injury.

The court reasoned that if a property owner were to become liable for every hazard of a certain kind of which it had any prior knowledge, it would amount to strict liability (meaning plaintiff could prevail simply because he was injured on site).

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Jones v. Imperial Palace of Mississippi, LLC, Sept. 18, 2014, Mississippi Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Payne v. Novartis Pharm. Corp. – Sixth Circuit Allows Failure-to-Warn Claim to Continue, Sept. 4, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Injury Lawyer Blog

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